Larry Page: As Innovator Role Model
By Shlomo Maital
Fortune magazine has chosen Larry Page (Dec. 1 issue) as Business Person of the Year. The feature article begins with a revealing joke, told often around Google. At Google’s “moon shot” Google X center, where self-driven cars, high-altitude wind turbines, and stratospheric balloons for Internet access are developed, a ‘brainiac’ creates a time machine. As the scientist reaches for the power cord to start a demo for Larry Page, Page says: “Hey! Why do you need to plug it in!?”
For a decade Page was one member of a triangle – Sergei Brin, Eric Schmidt, and Page – that led Google. In 2011 Page took over as CEO. Turns out he is a good manager. In the past three years, Google has grown 20% annually, and has quarterly revenue of $16 b. It has $62 billion in cash. Page invests heavily both in Google’s core business (he says he argued with Steve Jobs, who said, ‘you guys are doing too much’) and in far-flung new projects. According to Fortune, in the past year, Google has invested in artificial intelligence, robotics and delivery drones. It has expanded its venture unit, which invests in startups and is a kind of scouting team. It bought Nest, a smart-home startup. It invested in Calico, a biotech firm.
Originally Google set out to “organize the world’s information and make it universally useful and accessible”. Today that vision is too narrow. Page says he wants Google to change the world in ways most of us cannot imagine.
Some say Google is too narrowly focused on advertising revenue. But YouTube now brings in $6 billion in annual revenues. Page continues to invest in bold ventures, to ensure the company’s future. He is making ‘credible bets’ on the home, the car, and wearable devices.
Most amazingly, Google has a secret facility where a team of scientists are working on a project that will chemically ‘paint’ tiny nanoparticles, with a protein, so they bind to things like cancer cells. And then concentrate them through magnetized wearable devices, so they can be ‘queried’. This would enable constant monitoring and detection of a whole host of devices. Outside Google’s core competence? Not at all.
Page regards some of his bold bets as a portfolio bucket. Some will pay off. Many won’t. He doesn’t think the risk is high. By the time you want to put large sums of money into something, you pretty much know whether it will be profitable, he says. For him, not taking risks is the biggest risk of all.